October 26, 2021

Supreme Court Decides to Leave Texas Heartbeat Act in Place During Arguments

The US Supreme Court announced last Friday that it will leave Texas's Heartbeat Act in place while it decides on the law's constitutionality. It has fast-tracked this case to hear oral arguments starting on Nov. 1.

The Heartbeat Act first went into effect on Sept. 1, 2021. The law prohibits the abortion of unborn babies whose heartbeats are detectable. This happens at around six weeks gestation. So far, the law has managed to avoid being struck down by judges due to its unique method of enforcement. Rather than being enforced directly by the state of Texas, the law empowers individuals to file lawsuits against abortionists and others who participate in the abortion of protected babies. The mother of an aborted baby cannot be held liable under the Heartbeat Act.

The court's announcement allows the case to skip proceedings in appeals courts, and it will instead go directly to the US Supreme Court. The Biden administration requested that the court block the Texas Heartbeat Act's enforcement, but the court refused to do so in this instance.

Additionally, the court might not rule directly on the constitutionality of abortion restrictions. In a case brought by the Biden administration, the Supreme Court will consider whether the federal government has the right to sue the state of Texas to block the law's enforcement. In another case brought by the abortion businesses, the court will rule on the constitutionality of the law's enforcement mechanism (civil lawsuits by individuals rather than direct government enforcement).

This is the second time that the Supreme Court has declined to block the Texas Heartbeat Act's enforcement. The first time, the court did so on procedural grounds.